In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India

Published By: Anchor

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Social Science

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Reviewed by Kristin Grabarek

While most have remained captivated by China’s race to be recognized as the next world power, Edward Luce suggests shifting focus to another eastern country: India. In Spite of the Gods substantiates this suggestion.

Qualified to offer this survey after reporting from New Delhi for the Financial Times, Luce draws from both his professional and personal experiences in India to analyze its glaring contradictions, the most striking being India’s rise to the world stage as a powerful economic and political force, while the population of India remains deeply religious, spiritual, and often impoverished.

To account for India’s current position on the world stage, and likely candidacy for the next world power, Luce stunningly explains for the layperson the history and nature of India’s economy. The Indian economy is fueled not by industry but by service. These service sectors combined in recent decades with a growing information technology sector, which immediately placed India within the ranks of the world powers.

Luce does not limit himself to economic analyses, nor to the middle and upper classes. Weaving together history, facts, anecdotes, and interviews from the entire subcontinent, Luce provides such shocking details such as that in Bihar, in northern India, roughly 80 percent of government-subsidized food is stolen. How? Most ration cards must be obtained through bribery, and Indians capable of bribing, are not poor.

Luce’s seamless shifting between economics, politics, religion, tradition, and the world stage is useful. By providing various ways through which to interpret modern India, Luce not only allows his reader a breezy catch-up on exactly how India got from there to here, but also demonstrates to his reader how to pull from multiple perspectives when considering India.

Luce’s modern history of India avoids romanticizing the country, a trap into which many historians of India have fallen. And his book loses no excitement in this wise aversion; instead, the picture Luce weaves of India is so hopeful that one is inclined to agree not only with his assertion that India is a viable candidate for the next world power, but furthermore that India’s rise to world power will add to, rather than threaten, global stability.

Armchair Interviews says: Important message for all interested in our ever-changing global economy.

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